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Conscious Parenting for Values

by Dr. Joseph Plasner, Balabon Center

Among professionals working with children and parents, there is little doubt that parenting is absolutely one of the most difficult though, important, and potentially rewarding tasks human beings may ever encounter. It is a task in which we all have relatively little experience or the opportunity to acquire much first hand knowledge prior to assuming such distinction. As result, we are forced to learn through on-the-job training, an often scary, confusing, and unconscious journey leaving us open to making the same unintentional mistakes over and over again. Without much foundation in parenting, we are required to utilize and rely on our own childhood experiences, as we repeat a legacy of intergenerational, unhealthy patterns. Many of the unresolved issues and conflicts we have had as children in our families of origin are invariably reflected in our roles as parents, often leaving us feeling angry, frustrated, and hopeless. When parental behaviors are driven by prior unconscious commitments from the past and present fears, our children suffer greatly with self-esteem deficiencies, confusion, erosion of trust, and mounting anger and discouragement that frequently set the foundation for developing heated battles, depression and anxiety, and destructive acting-out behaviors. As this continues, parents seem also to unwittingly inflict a more serious blow to the possibilities of their children developing critical values and a sense of universal love and spiritualism as they grow into young adulthood.

It is my belief that we in this nation face a parenting crossroads of unprecedented proportion. We are a growing society of baby-boomers, as well as by-products of the "me-generation," as we are faced with observing the dissolution of our family structure and traditions in increasing numbers. The rise of single-parent and step-parent families has been astonishing as has the increasing necessity for both husbands and wives entering the work force. At the same time, we have become a people whose stability, sense of purpose and values are faltering, and "The American Dream" appears to be more difficult to achieve than ever.

In these turbulent times when our nation faces much world hatred, distrust, and hostility, as well as discord and division, and poverty here at home, it is left up to each and every one of us to become more conscious as adults and take the initiative to meet the challenges of parenting. Surely our children deserve better dreams at night. As they awaken into the dawn of day, we must present them with the opportunity to meet the challenges of life with hope, a desire to love others, and faith in better days to come. They must feel better about themselves and more capable and resilient as they learn the meaning of cooperation, healthy self-love, responsibility, and respect for individual differences and the rights of others. It is hoped that their journey will be fueled by an expanded openness in their parents, one that stretches beyond our boundaries and into the souls of all human beings that have a common origin and shared belief in a higher power greater than ourselves.

To this end and from a "holistic" perspective, it is my hope that conscious parents move toward a direction of greater spirituality, insight and sensitivity, becoming more open to the philosophy and central concepts of what it means and feels like to be a fully conscious parent. As an educator, school psychologist, and parent of over 30 years, I have grown to appreciate this endeavor as an act of commitment, caring and love. It is the intensity and energy resulting from this kind of love that parents can hope to harness as they accept the opportunities and challenges of becoming a more conscious parent. There is no greater gift a parent can give to his children than laying the footings for emotional health, a positive self-esteem, lasting core principles, problem solving skills, and lasting values.

Over the past several years, I have had a vision for parents to become fully aware and more conscious so that our children may truly learn how to love themselves in a healthy way, become tolerant and respectful of individual freedoms and differences, and work toward developing lasting values, a social consciousness, and a path that opens the door toward a more spiritual way of life. It is my belief that parents, who are able to recognize their own true nature as being part of a larger Divine universe, inherently become more receptive to also loving themselves more fully and unconditionally. Conscious parents are unique in that they are accepting, open to change, and willing to learn more about themselves and their children. In their new acquired flexibility, they are able to look at their lives and their children differently with new eyes, integrating and blending many diverse concepts related to self-help, self-growth, and values. As they accomplish this, they remain focused on building self-esteem and moral fiber as they embrace democratic, respectful, and humanistic methods of parenting.

Conscious parenting and democratic methods of engaging our loved-ones necessarily require that adults become appropriate role models for their children. This is the first thing that comes to mind when parents ask me what they can do to raise happy, respectful, self-sufficient children who feel good about themselves. When speaking with parents, I also suggest that they look closely at the concept of discipline, acknowledging that it is derived from disciple. In the true sense of the word, this suggests that parents strive to become more worthy of being followed as they perfect the art of appropriate role-modeling for their children.

In this vein, it follows that if we are to raise self-controlled and self-disciplined children, we must effectively value and role model patience. The same rings true for honesty, loyalty, respect, and cooperation. How can we expect our youngsters to embrace honesty when they catch us cheating on our income taxes, not being genuine with our spouses, or saying one thing and doing another without much integrity? As parents we are obliged to make a commitment to maintaining unquestionable integrity and then acting as though we take our own commitments seriously. Similarly, if we expect our loved ones to develop a healthy self-esteem, we must frequently show them appreciation, respect, and encouragement. How can we as parents expect our children to be good listeners and communicators, if we ourselves cannot role-model these very important skills as we communicate with them each and every day.

As you might have already suspected, appropriate role modeling is essential in developing prosocial behaviors and social interest and values in children. At the same time, effective parenting also requires skill at negotiating consequences, setting limits, and respectful problem solving. With respect to consequences, realizing the importance of taking a small step back and allowing the flow of natural consequences is just as important as creatively establishing cause and effect in children. Natural consequences are great teachers, and only require that we love our children enough not to rescue them. For example, refusing dinnertime time because a child will not come in from play when asked to do so, will result in going hungry. A childís hands will surely become quickly cold if gloves are forgotten in the winter. Problems with children who continually forget their books or insist on last-minute completion of assignments would be greatly decreased if parents only learn to resist the temptation of rescuing them as they allow teachers to impose related consequences.

In order to become a conscious and effective parent, significant adults must be willing to take responsibility for their own actions and be willing to expend energy and effort toward making significant change. Such commitment is central since it implies greater understanding that as adults they must initiate the responsibility of altering how they view their childrenís behaviors, their parenting style, and the manner in which they communicate with their loved ones. All children should feel connected and special to their parents. They also need to believe that they are capable, and that they count. The courage to risk failure is also important, especially for those children who are not particularly resilient, and can be quite convincing that others should give up on them.

Feeling connected, capable, and courageous does not occur accidentally within our children, and they do not develop a sense of adequacy, responsibility, self-discipline, and positive social values magically. Encouragement provides the fuel for all of the above and for transforming childrenís misguided purposes into more fruitful interaction and more positive approaches toward experiencing life. Encouragement serves in part to mold a childís self-esteem and feelings of self-worth. It focuses on strengths and positive attributes and communicates appreciation and acceptance for effort.

While the language of encouragement is a worthwhile process, it does not come easily and not without sufficient practice. However, with a renewed commitment toward change, parents may themselves develop the courage to be imperfect, as they accept the idea of process not product, look at mistakes as being opportunities to learn new behaviors, and become better able at separating the doer from the deed. At the same time, this new found language also requires that parents put into practice the art of becoming respectful and active listeners, catch their children being good, refrain from doing that which children ought to do for themselves, and learn how to create logical consequences instead of punishment.

It is my hope that as caring and thoughtful adults, we are willing to become better informed, more self-aware, and increasingly capable of respecting individual differences and rights. When consciousness wins out over fear, parents are able to truly accept a commitment that unlocks the secrets of a values-centered and democratic approach that has its foundation in the indivisible nature of life, humanism, and creative capacity of man. In learning these secrets we are also drawn to validate the purposefulness of behavior and feelings, as well as acknowledge the power of freedom of choice, creative intent, equality, and the guiding principle that all human beings require significance, acceptance, and love. Though this journey will certainly be challenging and even painful at times, becoming more conscious and traveling a new direction means choosing health over unconscious suffering, appreciation over condemnation, gratitude over complaining, and empowerment over giving up.

As the vibrations of conscious parenting intensify to a higher and higher frequency, this will give birth to a wonderful and ever-lasting gift that our children might behold and pass on to future generations. Such a special gift, is indeed centered around the "spirituality of loving kindness" toward all of life and found in the following quotation by Albert Einstein, "A human being is part of a whole called by us, universe, a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts, and feelings as something separate from the rest, a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness. This optical delusion is a prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and affections for a few persons, nearest to us. Now, our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty."

Dr. Plasner, a licensed/school psychologist, and owner/executive director of Balaban and Associates, has recently completed a book entitled, "Conscious Parenting: A Values-Centered Approach". He has also developed an e-course on parenting that he will be offering on his website shortly, at www.recapt.com. He can be reached at: jplasner@optonline.net.


Disclaimer: Internet Special Education Resources (ISER) provides this information in an effort to help parents find local special education professionals and resources. ISER does not recommend or endorse any particular special education referral source, special educational methodological bias, type of special education professional, or specific special education professional.

 

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